We’ve had a rough year. If you listened to the episode of the Bloodcast that I did with Ryan you know that the horror offerings this year have been mostly subpar in my opinion, with only a few stand outs. This is something that I hate admitting but is totally true. I needed to see something that could make me believe, give me the opportunity to feel the fear once again and know that everything was still good out there.
Enter The Conjuring. The latest horror film from director James Wan that many might mistake for having some relation to Insidious due to similar content and cast member – but it isn’t related. Wan has taken material that many will scoff at for being tired and has expertly crafted it into its very own stand-alone scarefest that will manage to get under your skin even if you don’t believe in the supernatural.
Telling the story of Ed and Lorraine Warrens’ investigation of a particularly nasty spirit, The Conjuring manages to take what you expect from a film of this style and offer surprise on top of surprise. Instead of going for cheap gags and fake jump scares, the film sets-up and pays off every time with little room for you to prepare yourself for what comes next. Lest you think that The Conjuring will settle for typical “Here’s a scary lady face” or “Listen, a weird noise!” you’ll be in for a rude awakening when its relentless visuals cause you to lose sleep.
Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson play the Warrens perfectly. Taking on the role of well known people can’t be an easy task, and they make you believe that they’re an in love couple that have dealt with demons, ghosts, and hauntings for years. While I don’t think these two have put a stamp on the “Occult investigator” archetype that will last for decades, they’ve certainly created a pair of characters that are more memorable than most of the movies I’ve seen this year.
The really remarkable acting work comes from the supporting characters though. Lili Taylor presents one of the best performances of someone that is relentlessly tortured by an entity and does it without a hint of irony or camp. By treating this material with the right amount of respect and reverence Taylor’s performance might be one of the best this year. Ron Livingston leads the rest of the cast, consisting of five spectacular young women, who all react so convincingly that you will believe the torment they’re going through.
After movies like Poltergeist, The Shining, and The Amytiville Horror, which The Conjuring clearly owes a lot to, many will assume that you can’t make a film of this style without repeating the ideas that originated in these classics. The Conjuring goes in a different direction from these films, not only in the execution of its scares, but in its narrative as a whole. By choosing to focus on the effect the conjuring itself has and the attempts to quell it, instead of simply letting it run rampant and see its capabilities as an unstoppable force of evil, the movie creates a story that maintains a unique feel for its duration. Furthermore watching as the consequences of what the Warrens do effect them, their family, and friends makes this into a very personal horror film. Once again, this causes it stand out from many of the directionless attempts that we’ve seen this year.
It’s very difficult to find a modern horror film that doesn’t make viewers laugh at it for even a few minutes, it is the curse of the “we’ve seen it all” audience, but The Conjuring knows you’ve seen it all and still manages to deliver some of the best scares I’ve seen in years. James Wan has once again created one of the most visually arresting and all around entertaining horror films that we’ve seen in some time. It’s easily one of the scariest movies of the year and something I’m very eager to revisit, plus it could signal the start of a new, and welcome, horror franchise that I want to see more from.